Building a Commander Deck, Part 5: Building a Mechanical Commander Deck

A bit of backstory: why am I even writing this series?

I was looking to jam some games of Commander after work one day. One opponent brought the Anje Falkenrath preconstructed deck. Another brought her Meren deck. And I…I brought Urza. After comboing off on turn 4 through the hate (no, seriously, my Grim Monolith got blown away by a Krosan Grip, so I tutored up and played Dramatic Scepter instead), I realized that I’d really messed up. So I pulled out a precon and accepted them handing my ass to me because I deserved it.

About Mechanical Decks

Again, I’m using “Mechanical” in an unusual way here, mostly because of all the power levels, this one is the hardest to come up with a name for. It’s supposed to be about the same power level as the preconstructed decks possibly with the most obvious of upgrades, maybe with a couple of upgrades out of a trade binder. Basically, the idea of a mechanical deck is that it is a deck that can win the game, but it does not have a specific focus. In this deck, the theme is obviously horses, but it lacks focus. It isn’t just winning by playing inherently evasive creatures. It isn’t playing to some grand finale. It’s simply playing to put horses on the table and turn them sideways.

How do you want to win?

Hoofbeats. I want to play a bunch of horses, above all else. I want everyone to know how much my coworker loves horses (which she does). I want to overrun my opponents with a stampede of horses, regardless of how tall of an ask that is. Lots of horses — as many playable horses as I can jam. I want my horses to get through, so I’m going to give my horses horsemanship with Sun Quan, Lord of Wu. Is it going to suck as a win condition? Absolutely. Therefore, let’s bring in Overwhelming Stampede, Triumph of the Hordes, and Craterhoof Behemoth. Those cards should help shore up the deficits of a beatdown plan.


We’re going to stick to a mostly removal-based interaction package, basically saying that we’re a green-black deck splashing the other colors. Yes, we’ve got a couple of counterspells (Counterspell, Negate, Veil of Summer, and yes, Boros Charm works very nicely as anti-removal) to stop boardwipes or combos. We’ve put in a couple of ways of dealing with problematic permanents. And we are running Cyclonic Rift to try to get our stampede in on an empty board. Our other semi-sweeper is Plague Mare, a horse that gives our opponents’ creatures -1/-1 until end of turn.


It’s running the three Sultai Signets plus Selesnya and Orzhov Signets, Arcane Signet, Sol Ring, Fellwar Stone, and Commander’s Sphere. Unfortunately, that’s about all we have room for. Dorkage would be nice, but we just don’t have the space. We are running the Battlebond lands, the Modern Horizons lands, and the shocklands suite except Sacred Foundry because we don’t really need it as red and white are our least used colors, 3 each of Forest, Swamp, and Island because the core of the deck is mostly in Sultai colors and 2 of the other basic lands. I don’t think this is enough, though. We are also running City of Brass, Mana Confluence, and Command Tower, because they will help us with our fixing.

The Combos

This deck isn’t really a combo deck, but it is packing a few key cards to punch through damage, all of which I’ve discussed briefly, but I feel that they merit mention here:

  • Sun Quan, Lord of Wu: He gives all of our creatures Horsemanship. Creatures with horsemanship can only be blocked by other creatures with horsemanship. It’s like flying, except that there are no cards with the equivalent of Reach — and flying and horsemanship creatures can’t see each other.
  • Craterhoof Behemoth: This is a friend to all go-wide decks in the format. You tutor him to the board and swing for the fences.
  • Overwhelming Stampede: Like Craterhoof Behemoth, but only gives +5/+5 and is a sorcery. Still, it should be good enough to end a player or two.
  • Cyclonic Rift: You know this card. You hate this card. You hate that you secretly love this card. It clears the board of anything and everything at instant speed — except for your stuff. So you cast it, then you strike into the biggest bad guy at the table.
  • Triumph of the Hordes: Remember how I said only jerks win with Infect? Yeah, it’s time to be a jerk. The fact that I’ve thrown this in at all tells you how bad I think this deck really is: I am not confident that Triumph is enough to close out a game in our favor.

Card Draw and Tutors

I’m still playing three tutors: Diabolic, Worldly, and Chord of Calling. Between them, they should get whatever they need. I’m also running a fairly typical Simic draw suite, based on creatures. Lastly, the recursion package I mentioned earlier should help rescue Sun Quan specifically, but also any other creature we may need on the table at the moment. Honestly, these cards are mostly here due to the relative lack of playable creatures.

Other things I’ve learned

Apparently, TappedOut’s competitive meter is clued in to the presence of certain cards. An earlier version of this deck included Future Sight and the fetchlands, and their removal caused its competitive meter to drop by about 10%. The mana curve on this deck is admittedly a disaster, with a secondary peak at the 4-drop slot.

Next Time: Making an Orthogonal Deck

It turns out that there’s even a method to making a deck that isn’t even bothering to try to win the game. However, I’ve made an executive decision NOT to build a group hug deck, as that largely results in some subpar playing experiences, especially for beginners who may think that building or piloting such decks is easy because the power level is low. So instead, I’m going in a different direction: a deck whose combo is not about winning but about doing something else entirely. Oh, don’t be fooled: it still locks your opponents out of the game, but in so doing, it not only stops them from winning, but it strips you of decisions as well. That’s right, we’re building a Rube Goldberg machine.



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